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POLITICS

Court battle over Henoko issue between government and Okinawa

  • 2015-07-21 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: July 20, 2015 – p.2)

 

 The government and the Okinawa prefectural government are probing each other’s intentions over the issue of the relocation of the U.S. military Futenma Air Station (Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture) to Henoko in Nago City, bearing in mind the possibility that the issue could develop into court battle. Governor Takeshi Onaga is ready to cancel the approval of the Henoko reclamation, trying to discern the effective timing of the official cancellation. The government maintains a policy of proceeding with the main part of the reclamation beginning in summer but bears in mind the possibility of a postponement from summer to after autumn, waiting to see how Okinawa prefecture’s moves.

 

 “I want to ask the governor what he thinks of removing the danger (of the Futenma Air Station),” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga recently to his close associates. Suga talked with the governor over dinner on July 4 in Tokyo. In the press conference held on July 17, Suga said, “If the Diet schedule allows, I want to visit Okinawa.” Suga seems to want to figure out what the governor really intends to do.

 

 The prefecture’s third party panel comprising lawyers and professors put together on July 16 a report that “identified legal defects” in the reclamation approval by former Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

 

 If the prefectural government cancels the reclamation approval, the national government will try to suspend the cancellation by petitioning the administration for redress of the cancellation in accordance with the Administrative Complaint Investigation Law. Specifically, the government will file the petition with Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in charge of the Publicly-Owned Surface Water Reclamation Law. Around the same time, the government plans to start the landfill work.

 

 If that happens, the prefectural government will likely request that the national government’s petition should be turned down as “unlawful.” If the national government begins the landfill work, it is expected that the prefectural government will institute a lawsuit requesting the cancellation be made effective and the suspension of the reclamation.

 

 In preparation for a legal battle with the administration, the prefectural government is consulting with its legal advisors and specialists. The report by the third party panel runs to over 600 pages. Except for the outline of the result of the examination, the report has not been made public, which shows Okinawa’s intention not to reveal its cards.

 

 It is anticipated that Governor Onaga will officially announce the cancellation of the reclamation at the end of August. The announcement will possibly coincide with the critical stage of deliberations on the security legislation in the House of Councilors.

 

 Although the administration originally set the deadline for the survey of seabed drilling at the end of June, the government postponed it till the end of September because “typhoons delayed the schedule.” The actual landfill work will likely be delayed till autumn, but the government officially maintains the target for starting construction “as early as summer,” showing its strong stance to implement the construction. A government official said, “If things proceed as they are at present, a lawsuit will be unavoidable.”

 

 For the national government, the Henoko relocation is “the only solution” to the Futenma issue based on the Japan-U.S. agreement. It is difficult for Governor Onaga who was elected with support from the opposition camp on a platform of opposition to the Henoko relocation to demonstrate understanding toward the national government. There seems no room for compromise.

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